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Rise Up Against Addiction with Me

Sierra Henderson

Sierra Henderson

My brother and I would stay up all night watching low-budget Japanese films. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but we’d enjoy watching them anyways. He was a great musician. As his sister I had to give him a hard time because he was always “annoying” me and playing while I was watching TV or listening to my own music. We’d fight just like all siblings do. I remember one time he made me so mad and was hitting me, so I grabbed a baseball bat and was chasing him around the house with it. We would make “movies” with puppets and props and cheesy plots, though we never finished editing them. Josh was always there for me, from suffering through a Cute is What We Aim For concert when I was in middle school and needed someone to take me and my girlfriends, to picking me up after a drunken night and taking me to a park to sober up a bit before facing the wrath of our mother. He tried to teach me how to play instruments – From the piano, to the drums, to the guitar. I never could learn, but I have one repetitive tune I can play on each now. He had an affinity for the unique, and thought Bjork was “just the cutest.” He was smart – So smart – honors classes and good grades throughout all of school. I was always upset when it was my turn to move to the next grade and my teachers would refer to me as “josh’s little sister.” I find bits and pieces of him in everything I do – Especially the small things, like adding Goya to my ramen.

My Brother Joshua suffered from addiction for more than 12 years of his life. It started small and continuously grew as he searched for something stronger. My brother was an active drug user for more than half of the years I was able to spend with him. My entire life, since I was a pre-teen, has been spent waiting for the next phone call – Your brother is strung out again, your brother has been arrested again, your brother has overdosed again, your brother is in rehab again, your brother has been in an accident again. Every 3 to 6 months, when everything started to feel normal, these calls would come. Even after a stretch of sobriety, everything was bound to come crashing down again until I received the final phone call – that my brother had died. I never thought I would miss these phone calls, but I feel lost without them now.

Every doctor that we had seen was overprescribing, turning their backs, and pushing him out the door because he was an addict. My brother could go into a clinic with a list of drugs he was seeking and would leave with prescriptions for all of them. When he was truly injured, as soon as the doctors would find out he was an addict, they would look at him with disgust and treat him as if he was not worthy of treatment. My brother would thrive at rehab programs, only the be kicked out when insurance would lapse, and he didn’t have any further coverage.

As a family, we tried every approach to managing the addiction from overbearing love to tough love. Unfortunately, we all still failed him by trying to keep it away from the world. The stigma surrounding addiction tells us that this is something private and personal, and that it is a disgrace. Words like “Junkie” get thrown around, and addicts are made to feel like they are not worthy of love. They end up feeling so alone and rejected that the only place left to turn is back to the drugs. Had we been more open and accepting about addiction and educated ourselves more on how it works, I do believe my brother would still be here today. I am guilty of this, as I know more about addiction now than I ever bothered to learn before.

Shatterproof seeks to help families suffering with addiction. They have helped pass several legislations that give those battling addiction access to quality, science-based treatment. They are working with the CDC to ensure that opioid prescription guidelines are followed, and they are increasing the availability of Naloxone to the community, which is much needed with the rising rate of death in America. Shatterproof was founded by a man who also lost his son to an overdose and wants to help reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and prevent others from going down this path. A long list of Shatterproof’s achievements can be found at https://www.shatterproof.org/accomplishments

Shatterproof will be hosting their Annual 5K in Chicago on Saturday, September 7th. Registration to walk is completely free. If you would like to walk with us, please register and search for the team “One Chance To Live.”

Please help me reach my goal as I walk in honor of my brother, Joshua Henderson, and for all of the families who have lost a loved one or are currently fighting addiction and seeking treatment.

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